Compact Tractors are Designed All Wrong

   / Compact Tractors are Designed All Wrong #1  


Veteran Member
Aug 21, 2000
Western Connecticut
2003 Kubota L3430
Having some experience under my belt, I am even more convinced now than I was when I began looking at tractors a year ago that the design of compact tractors, for us weekend diggers as opposed to real farmers, is all wrong. It is a design that has devolved, in an anti-Darwinian fashion, from a series of historical compromises and from blind mimicry of grandpa's agricultural tractor.

Here is a list of the design flaws and the obvious remedies:

1. The 3ph is an abomination. It is an historical industry compromise that, like all compromises, is a mediocrity at best. It is the interface that has launched a thousand hernias (and a googolplex cursewords). It needs to be replaced by the kind of simple, 30-second attachment interface that skidsteers have.

2. Mowers should be on the front of a tractor. This is so for both finish mowers and brush mowers. It is also so for snow blades and snowblowers. Having any of these in the middle or back of the tractor is inefficient, clumsy, and puts you in the hospital for with neck problems in addition to your hernia. The solution is having fully independent attachment interfaces on both ends of the tractor. Thus, for example, you could have the mower on the front and the FEL on the back as your "regular" set-up. This would also have the virtue of eliminating the need for clunky, useless counterweights for the rear of the tractor such as weight boxes, concrete-filled cans or trendy boxblades.

3. This naturally means you should be able to swivel the driver's seat around and drive in either direction. Thereby, your FEL or hoe would then be in front of you for proper operation, with the mower (or other useful implement) then becoming the "rear" counterweight.

4. The power connection to the attachment interfaces should be hydraulic, not mechanical. Just one-second quick-connect couplers. No more dangerous, twirling pto shafts to to catch your lovebead neckaces and choke you to death. No more clumsy, heavy implement shafts. No more lining up splines, or fiddling with collars and buttons.

5. All wheels should be the same size. Small front wheels are (for us weekend diggers) a largely useless artifact of agricultural crop row navigation. Might as well put sundials on tractors. Having equal wheel sizes would have many benefits. There would be a larger tractor footrprint and hence greater overall floatation. There would be less scuffing of lawns and imprinting in soils, and less sinking into wet soils and mud, because it is the small front tires that are the primary culprits in these matters. You could change tire sizes without worrying about differing 4wd circumference ratios between the front and rear wheels. You could fill all four tires for more traction and stability, and be driving an overall more weight-balanced vehicle. You would have better traction in 4wd, which should be significant in mud and snow applications.

6. Because mowing is a primary activity of compact users, these tractors should all articulate. This means they pivot in the middle to promote ease of turning and driving.

7. They should be significantly cheaper than they are. Why should a small compact tractor cost more than a compact car? Tractors are 1930 technology, for goodness sakes, and have relatively few parts. Something is wrong. They are way overpriced.

Having been on sabbatical from this forum for several months, I am pleased to observe that there is now an American-made product that cures most of these problems and meets most of these objectives: the Power-Trac, courageously purchased by Willingtonpizza. Having reviewed the Power-Trac on their website, it is obvious that there is no sane reason anymore to purchase the historically-flawed compact tractor.

You all may disgree with this, of course.
   / Compact Tractors are Designed All Wrong #2  
Ahh, Glenn -

How I've missed your pungent dissertations! /w3tcompact/icons/smile.gif

I was fully prepared to dismiss your arguments as utter nonsense, but each of your points struck a suppressed nerve deep in the heart of my own newbie tractor consciousness. I have similar feelings about the internal combustion engine. Can't convince me that controlled explosions in a box is "state of the art" for vehicle propulsion.

I guess my only counter argument is that when all is said and done, I still enjoy the heck out of my tractor, even with all of its shortcomings. It beats the heck out of what I was doing before I had it, and doing the chores the way my granpa used to do it is actually a real kick for me.

I think you will find that the evolution of certain products, such as tractors, is almost self-defeating to the manufacturers themselves. There are so many 3-pt/PTO attachments already in use out there that they would be shooting themselves in the foot by building a tractor that wasn't compatible with them. Color TV, although clearly superior and more desirable, almost got stuck in the starting blocks for the same reason. Why buy a color set when nobody is broadcasting color shows? And why broadcast color shows if nobody has a color set?

Never one for staying at the shallow end of any pool of controversy -- good to see you again. /w3tcompact/icons/wink.gif

   / Compact Tractors are Designed All Wrong #3  

I found this about a year ago just surfing through New Holland's web site. I posted something about this a year ago, I think Muhamud said he has seen one at a farm show. It's a little big, about half the size would be nice for my liking. Seems like it would fits some your recommened improvements.

TV140 Bidirectional™ tractor 1

TV140 Bidirectional™ tractor 2

I agree with the design flaws and obvious remedies.

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1>Edited by Rowski on 06/21/01 06:11 AM (server time).</FONT></P>
   / Compact Tractors are Designed All Wrong #4  
Glennmac, do not make me think, it hurts my head and in the end only aggravates me. Good points......
   / Compact Tractors are Designed All Wrong #6  

That looks like a fabulous design. If they made it in a 40-50hp unit, I would be seriously considering it now. Have you heard anything about the reliabilty of the hydro transmission in that tractor?

   / Compact Tractors are Designed All Wrong #7  
I also have a bit of experience with "conventional" tractors. JD "B", Farmall 450 & 300, currently JD 2240 w/ FEL, JD 950 w/ 6' Woods rotary and JD 755 w/ belly mower. After talking to several Power-Trac users, I plan to get one. Their owners rave about the quick attachment of components, and general capability. The machines combine functions of a compact tractor with genuine slope mowing safety and skid steer loader flexibility without the instability of most skid steers.
I have grown to hate 3 pt. hitches. If you really like them, however, and like them at both ends, look at
They-re pricey, but I understand from a Swiss native, they are wonderful.

Charlie Iliff
   / Compact Tractors are Designed All Wrong #9  
[[[7. They should be significantly cheaper than they are. Why should a small compact tractor cost more than a compact car? Tractors are 1930 technology, for goodness sakes, and have relatively few parts. Something is wrong. They are way overpriced.]]]

Economies of scale?
For a given investment of design and tooling, how many people buy cars? How many buy tractors?

   / Compact Tractors are Designed All Wrong #10  
How many of us will have that small car to pass on to future generations.Rice burners last a while but I think the tractors are still out front on longevity.

Lil' Paul
Proud owner of TC21D
Laziness is the Father of invention.../w3tcompact/icons/laugh.gif